IAI senior fellow Silvia Colombo chaired the seminar on Iran’s regional role held by Shireen Hunter, American of Iranian origins and research professor at Georgetown University. The chair explained the main theme of the conference, namely the focus on the pivotal role of Iran, tackling the position of the country beyond the nuclear issue. Indeed, transatlantic partners need to take into account the country’s internal situations and its legitimate needs and concerns in developing relations with Iran in a broader framework.
Professor Hunter specified that Iran needs to be analysed not just as part of the regional dynamics of the Middle East, but also as part of the broader international system. Still, commenting on Iran’s role in the Middle East, she explained that Iran’s contribution to regional stability (or lack thereof) has been a hugely exaggerated. Concerning the nuclear deal, Professor Hunter explained that she has no high hopes for an agreement to see the light, as a number of stumbling blocks still exist. They are symptoms of the broader difficulties that exist in relations between Iran and the US. Indeed, most of the current problems in the area are the result of the misguided US policies after the Soviet collapse, which began even before the Clinton presidency (more specifically with the first Bush administration).
Finally, the professor commented on the sanctions imposed on Iran that have had a tremendous effect on the country. The possibility of having them lifted is mainly what has brought Iranians to accept an agreement; however, they will not all be lifted at the same time. She believes that Iran’s punishment has exceeded its crimes, but that the country is so desperate to re-enter the international community and have sanctions diminished, that it could also accept an unfair condition. Nevertheless, the leadership will have to sell this to its sceptical population.